Building on 2020
The complete schedule is still to come, but poker players around the world can start moving things around on their work and social calendars, as PokerStars has announced the dates for the 2021 World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP). Running August 22 through September 15, this year’s WCOOP comes with $100 million in guaranteed prize pools, largest guarantee in the history of the two decades-old series.
Last year’s WCOOP had $80 million in guarantees, but that number was easily eclipsed, with 1,120,910 entries across 75 events generating $99.9 million in total prize pools. Online poker was hopping last year as people spent much more time at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it will be interesting to see how the numbers add up in 2021.
That was the second-largest WCOOP as far as total entries go; the total unique entries (thus, not counting re-entries) was 958,717.
As popular as the WCOOP was last year, there was actually an overlay for the $5,200 Main Event. It drew 1,977 entries, which meant it came just a little bit short of the $10 million guarantee. The $530 “medium” tier Main Event did break its guarantee for the first time, however, doing so easily by $1 million.
Two decades of WCOOP
The PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker debuted in 2002, just before the poker boom. Back then, it was comprised of just nine events and drew 2,452 total entries. The prize pools added up to nearly $800,000. Of the nine champs, five hailed from the United States, two were from Sweden, and one each were from France and Canada.
A handful of events were tacked on each year, with a real jump coming in 2008, when the WCOOP grew from 23 to 33 events and the total prize pools skyrocketed by about $17 million. It was up to 62 events in 2010, at which point the number of events held steady in the low-to-mid 60’s through 2014.
In 2017, PokerStars added a “low” buy-in WCOOP, mirroring the same events as the traditional “high” WCOOP, just with more affordable price points. The following year, WCOOP changed to a “low,” “medium,” “high,” three-tiered buy-in structure, which is what it has looked like ever since.
Across all WCOOPs from 2002 through 2020, there have been 1,433 tournaments and nearly 5.2 million entries. Prize pools have added up to almost $973 million, which means the $1 billion mark will be reached this year.
Russia leads the way with 156 titles, followed by the United Kingdom with 144, the United States with 136, and Brazil and Canada tied at 114. The United States will continue to drop down the list, as US players have not been permitted on PokerStars since Black Friday in April 2011. Players on the PokerStars sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan do not participate in WCOOP, but rather have their own, state-specific “COOP” series.